As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s veteran political reporter Charles Ashby reports, Republican Rep.-elect Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert did the thing every winning candidate has to do–run up the score in your strongholds (with one notable exception, see below), and don’t lose too badly in the places you’re going to lose:
Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush didn’t pull in as many votes as she was expected to in many of the left-leaning counties in the expansive 3rd Congressional District…
Boebert, who ended up winning the seat in Tuesday’s election by about 5.5 percentage points, did as expected in such heavily right-leaning counties as Mesa and Delta. She also amassed impressive numbers in such left-leaning ones as Alamosa, Conejos and Huerfano, where there are more registered Democrats than Republicans.
But while Boebert lost her home county of Garfield by more than 6%, she only lost the dominantly Democratic Pueblo County by 2.5%.
Although Lauren Boebert underperformed overall in the general election compared to her ousted predecessor Rep. Scott Tipton, the deep red areas of this rural and mountainous district came out solidly in the end–and in the Democratic stronghold of the district in Pueblo, another tepid showing for Democrats in general failed to provide Democratic candidate Diane Mitsch Bush the boost she needed in this nominal Democratic stronghold. It’s very interesting to note the big margin by which Boebert lost her home Garfield County, however–as the location of most of Boebert’s bad press prior to her run for Congress, it’s a telling reminder that those who know Boebert like her least.
Some of the failure to take full advantage of the opportunity Boebert’s unexpected primary win over Tipton, who had held the seat with sufficient ease in prior elections that it would not have been nearly as contested by Democrats in 2020, does lie with Mitsch Bush. Trying again in 2020 after losing in the Democratic wave 2018 elections, Mitsch Bush received a massive infusion of support after Boebert won that doesn’t appear to have helped her much. For one thing, that spending was countered at every step by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and independent groups supporting Boebert, compensating for Boebert’s own inability to compete in fundraising on her own. While both sides spent heavily on the air, Boebert’s relentless in-person campaigning in open defiance of COVID-19 health orders, like in Republican races across the state and nation, does appear to have given her an advantage over Mitsch Bush’s low-energy but safe “all virtual” campaign.
So what happens next? Well, Lauren Boebert goes to Congress for at least one two-year term, where she faces an extremely steep learning curve. We suggest starting with the word “compact,” which as the Grand Junction Sentinel humorously explained means different things depending on the context. One of the things we’ll be watching to see is who she hires in terms of top staff–either taking cues from Washington Republicans and bringing in qualified people, or elevating the local fringy “semi-pros” who ran her campaign. One of the principal knocks on Boebert during the campaign was her almost complete vacuum of policy depth or agenda, so it’s fair to say that her chief of staff will exercise a very large degree of influence.
In the fairly likely event that Boebert fails to distinguish herself in this first term, we do believe she will face a primary challenge from “establishment” Republicans in 2022. The longtime political consultant who ran Tipton’s campaign and failed to anticipate Boebert’s primary victory, Michael Fortney, was hugely embarrassed by the result along with Tipton himself. Democrats will be watching Boebert closely for weakness to exploit, but so will local Republicans ready to oust her from this seat if she stumbles in any way. Depending on what happens to the map of CD-3 during the upcoming redistricting process, either side or both sides could be gunning (pun intended) for Boebert in two years.
The one thing we can say for sure is the AOC Jello wrestling match is never going to happen. Sorry, boys.